Sometimes collaboration becomes too much of a good thing.
Even before we’re hired- we’re encouraged to be collaboration masters. We describe ourselves as flexible, multi-tasking, team-spirited, demand-juggling professionals who are likewise perfectly fine to work entirely independently. Collaboration has in part become so valued in organizations because job knowledge has at the same time become increasingly specialized. In order for any subject to be approached holistically, there usually needs to be a myriad of experts contributing at once. As motivated and eager professionals who usually deliver noteworthy results, we’ve accepted that demands have and will always continue to come at us at all times, and from all directions. That’s just a part of the game and we’ve managed to adapt.
But what happens when it simply becomes too much?
There’s a notable trend of organizations suddenly losing their top performers- not necessarily for the typical reasons like a lack of development opportunity or the desire to join a more attractive employer. It’s rather because the workflow demands become too much, and they in short get overwhelmed. The more capable and helpful you are in your job, the more likely you are to face this.
The Harvard Business Review did a study- seeking to place some data on an occurrence many of us have seen or experienced ourselves. It’s important for managers to be aware of this phenomenon before losing their top talent, and for employees to likewise know when to raise the red flag before the demands are too much.
Here are a few pointers for managers and employees alike to avoid “success syndrome” all together:
Collaboration is great- But know when to stay in your lane
“Team work makes the dream work,” but there is such thing as a collaboration overload. According to the study, things tend to get too collaborative when someone receives a promotion, or changes departments. High performers are usually relied on by various parties- and often, they don’t want to leave their former team without support even when they shift positions. This results in not only facing new, possibly increased responsibilities, but additionally still juggling their former workload. Usually managers aren’t aware of this demand matrix occurring. They assume that their requests are the only the employee faces and therefore expect performance as usual.
Managers- It's important to stay alert when someone on your team has switched departments or received a promotion, and take the initiative to communicate to the entire organization where the responsibility boundaries lie for everyone. This will provide the context for your talent to say “no” to other colleagues.
Don’t always be the silent do-er. Communicate!
You might be appreciated in your team because people who do their jobs, and let results speak for themselves are a point of strength for any organization. By contrary, those who talk a lot, do a little, and are quick to jump on the back of a nearing success are organization energy drainers and tend demotivate their colleagues.
However, there is a point where speaking up is absolutely necessary- and even an obligation. It’s about caring for your own well-being, which ultimately influences the well-being of the company you work for. Trust yourself to know when your own boundaries are nearing. If you’re distracted by various unrelated tasks, it’s unlikely that you’ll be performing highly in any of them. Likewise, if you don’t speak up to your manager, there’s the risk that they’ll have no idea why the quality of your work is on a steady decrease.
Communication is your strongest line of defense here. Take the opportunity at your next evaluation appointment to alert your manager. In case you’re uncomfortable offering bottom-up feedback, refer to this section of the loopline Academy for advice.
When your performance is back on the rise, surely they’ll appreciate that you assumed the responsibility to speak up.
This is tough for many of us- Especially when we’ve worked hard to become a valued member of our organization and being bombarded with different tasks is actually a reflection of that- One could even say a form of flattery. However, be aware that the more responsibilities you’re facing from different directions, the less quality you’re likely delivering in any of them. Saying “no” also provides your manager and colleagues the feedback they need to create better structure in the organization and ensure sustainably good results.
With a strong line of communication and the reflective establishment of boundaries, employees can avoid becoming overwhelmed as they prove themselves to be key-players in their team, and managers can react before losing some of their top-performing talent. Feedback is an easy way to avoid the “success syndrome.”